Enlightenment. What an abstract, ‘out-there’ concept. Many of us think of enlightenment as a state of being that is free of all the muck that we don’t like. When we're finally enlightened, we imagine that we’ll be free of pesky physical symptoms, we won’t be angry anymore, other people will no longer trigger us emotionally, we’ll finally get over our difficult childhood—we’ll be liberated once-and-for-all. We’ll still be human but we’ll be officially free of all the trappings of the human condition that we dislike.
For many on the spiritual path this elusive state of well-being becomes a goal, like a carrot dangling in front of our noses that we don’t quite ever get to. We think if we do enough, or work at it long and hard, that we’ll eventually get ‘there.’ We get little tastes that keep refueling our relentless efforts. We meditate every day, perfect twisting our bodies into strange shapes, we drink green juice, stop eating meat, take mind-bending substances, read all the right books, and even go traveling far and wide thinking that in some other place, in some other location, we’ll somehow be different.
Sadly, this version of enlightenment is nothing more than a pacifying fantasy that the mind likes to cling to.
Most of us at one time or another however, do catch glimpses of a kind of illumination. The clouds of our neurosis part temporarily, the veil lifts for an hour, a day, a week, and things feel clear, beautiful, and totally right somehow. Eventually though we find ourselves in the deep shit of being human all over again—in conflict with our partner, enraged while driving in traffic, at dinner with our family with a lump in our throat, and there we are again—we land right back in the muck of our humanness. We realize that no matter how hard we try that we can’t keep or prolong these experiences of ‘rightness’ or clarity.
We cannot actually make enlightenment happen any more than we can make our own hearts beat or make the sun come up in the morning.
Adyashanti calls these organic clearings in consciousness non-abiding awakening. These are the moments when we loosen our grip, feel at ease, connected, and in the ultimate flow of life. We awaken spontaneously from the numbing-dream of the ordinary while making rapturous love with our partner, as we watch a flock of birds fly in unison, as we sit quietly on the edge of a lake and become one with its stillness, or as we go for a run and feel ourselves become the rhythm of feet pounding earth.
While these moments of piercing clarity and connection come and go, I believe that moments of awakening are actually unavoidable—we inevitably experience our true nature, eventually. Makes sense right? At some point we all taste the truth of what we are. Even people who are not ‘seekers’ or on a so-called ‘spiritual path’ have these moments of grace arise spontaneously while fishing, chopping wood, giving birth, or engaging in other very human experiences. We temporarily feel at one with everything.
Eventually you stumble, whether you’re trying to or not, right into an experience of what you really are—wide-open, radiant, shining, easeful spaciousness.
What we are is simply beyond words. As Nisargadatta says, “Wisdom is knowing I am nothing, Love is knowing I am everything, and between the two my life moves.”
I have personally stopped all efforts at achieving so-called ‘enlightenment’. I believe that true ‘enlightenment’, awakening that endures, comes through grace and not through any attempts on my part to get 'there'. I am no longer holding this as a goal, or an end to achieve, or as a hyper-desirable state to work towards. I’m seeing increasingly that I’m already ‘there’. Not that I am enlightened by any means but that ‘there’ is already ‘here’.
There is absolutely nowhere else to get to, nowhere else to be but right here.
I already am that—a perfect expression of god—and so are you. Underneath all the bullshit that I pile on top and beneath all my silly efforting—I AM THAT. It’s my very nature. It is what is most natural about me (and you).
No matter what I do or don’t do I can't alter or improve upon my divinity.
I see now that my grief is as holy as my joy, that my struggle is as noble as my ease. I increasingly live a life that is present-moment referred. This means that I’m not living for the future, for some better future, or some improved, ‘fixed’, perfected, future me.
We already ARE our true nature because we can’t NOT be what we are.
So what is our guiding light then? Where do we put all our silly human contriving and efforting? Lord knows we can’t just leave well enough alone so, what is our north star if it isn’t fixing ourselves, becoming all-better, or transcending our humanness through enlightenment? Do we just sit back and do nothing?
Integrity is the north star, the internal compass that I align with and move from.
What does that mean? For me, integrity is about being in right relationship to myself at the highest and deepest level. It’s about honoring my yes’s and no’s and trusting my truth. It’s about being completely devoted to the holy in me, to the truth at the very center of my being. It’s about moving from truth and honoring my truth at all times. I’m learning that when I honor the truth in me, I am also honoring truth itself. It’s as though in my center is just one drop of the whole and by honoring that drop I honor the all-that-is.
We each have our own unique way of aligning with and embodying the holy.
"What we love points to who we are." Our VALUES—what we hold dear, love, revere, the very ideals that we live for, are amazing sign posts that point to our very own authentic way of animating spirit. Our values are what we gravitate to naturally when we're really being ourselves. When we are living our values, we are in integrity. We are embodying our own deepest truths. We are ‘doing right’ by our soul, and in turn we do right by Spirit–-the soul of the world.
Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest – honest with ourselves first and foremost. Integrity is also the state of being whole and undivided. Integrity, interestingly, signifies unity, coherence, and wholeness.
While this may sound a lot like ‘enlightenment’, the amazing thing about integrity—coming from total alignment—is that it’s possible right now and in every now moment. It’s about aligning in the now, as I am, and as you are. While enlightenment is misconceived as some elite club we have to work super hard to get into, integrity is available right now, one choice at a time, when we listen closely to what is true for us and base our actions and decisions on that truth.
When we stop betraying ourselves and listen deeply to what our inner compass is saying we grow our wholeness. We become integrated.
Coming into integrity requires listening on all levels. We listen to the body’s truth—we eat when hungry and rest when tired. We listen to our emotional truth when we allow ourselves to feel what needs to be felt. We stop making ourselves wrong for strong emotions like grief and anger and instead heed their wisdom. We honor our soul truth when we listen to our inner guidance and intuition. Integrity requires that we source from within and that we re-plug all those vital inner networks that we were so connected to as children.
When we're integral, we trust and align with the impulses that move through us knowing that they are the impulses of the holy itself.
Integrity is ultimately alignment with SOUL – moving from the inner callings instead of from what society, our parents, or other external factors expect or even demand of us. This is a path that takes courage but that ultimately will be rewarding beyond words because it’s the path that is TRUE. It is the path that is sourced from truth.
While this listening and honoring may involve green juice, yoga postures, or other actions we are doing it from a different internal motivation. Knowing the holy is here, now, we can attune to that. Knowing that god is present where we are, and everywhere we go, we rest in that. We don’t have to go to India, or smudge ourselves, fast, drink mind altering substances, or sit silently for days on end, although if you are truly called to do that of course, you can.
Listening deeply to the prompts of soul can be scary at first. We may need to end certain relationships, quit our job, change our diet, or alter our daily habits drastically. Jungian analysts, have said that when we suppress the call of the soul it shows up as symptoms – stomach aches, depression, fatigue... The soul will have the final say regardless of how much our personalities (our egos) go kicking and screaming. We are ultimately here to serve the soul, regardless of how strange it's summons may seem at times.
We are always connected to the truth inside regardless of how much we’ve suppressed it, numbed it, lost touch with it, or tried to ignore it.
All that you seek is right here. Your seeking—for enlightenment or for anything you keep holding out as a future goal—is keeping you from resting in the deep alignment and integrity, the wholeness, and the holiness that is right here and right now—exactly as you are.
:: REFLECT ::
What are your thoughts and beliefs about 'enlightenment'?
Are you currently out of integrity in any way? What are you tolerating or putting up with that you know doesn’t work for you on the deepest level? Are you currently betraying your truth in small or large ways?
What does right-relationship mean to you? If you were to ‘do right by you’ at the highest level what would this look and feel like? What kind of life would be in total alignment with your inner truth?
What keeps you from aligning with the highest calling of your soul?
Have you had an experience of awakening? How would you describe the experience?
What keeps you seeking? What are you hoping to find that isn’t already here?
Copyright © 2016 Marie-Ève Bonneau